Tyler Perry (otherwise formerly known as Emmitt Perry, Jr) has overcome a traumatic childhood. This month he was featured in Essence magazine and speaks about his success and adversity. Born in New Orléans, Louisiana he had three other siblings and suffered severe abuse and molestation. Perry’s father’s answer “to everything was to beat it out of you.” He attempted suicide once to escape his father’s abuse. He was molested by three men; then on another occasion was molested at the age of 10 by his friend’s mother. Tyler says he never felt safe inside and outside the home. He was moved internally to relate to his abuse for the first time after seeing the 2009 movie “Precious.”
As pictures of his youth flashed across the screen, Perry told Oprah Winfrey in an interview, “I felt like I died as a child.” He recounts a memorable beating by his father when he was brutally whipped with a vacuum cord. He told Oprah, “I don’t know why he did it. But I remember him cornering me in a room and hitting me with this vacuum cleaner cord. He would just not stop. There are all these welts on (me), the flesh that’s coming from my bone, and I had to wait for him to go to sleep.” When his father finally fell asleep he ran to his aunts house and he recalls, “she was mortified when she saw it.” Perry said the fear that something would set his father off consumed him. He took drastic measures and tried slitting his wrists and commit suicide to end the pain.
Perry relates his story now with one of strength, courage and victory. He turned to his faith for comfort and sought refuge. Perry’s mother attended church and would take Perry along with her. In an effort to distance himself from his abusive father, Perry changed his name from Emmitt to Tyler at the age of 16. Later, Perry went on to earn his GED. He worked odd jobs and lived in his car. In his early 20’s, while watching an Oprah Winfrey talk show at work, he was moved by an author’s description of how writing can have therapeutic effects; of which, allowed the author to work out their own personal problems. A career in writing was born out of the inspiration from a single comment. He began to apply himself and soon began writing a series of letters to himself that turned into the basis for the musical play, “I Know I’ve Been Changed.” At the age of 22, Perry used his life savings of $12,000, moved to Atlanta and began the production of his first performance of the musical play at a community theater. The play encompassed themes of Christianity, forgiveness, dignity and self-worth and addressed issues he had faced with child abuse and his dysfunctional family past.
Perry says, “when a seed is planted in the ground, all you can do is water it, you cannot control the sunshine, you cannot control the weather, and you cannot control what the locust’s would do when they would come to destroy it. All you can do is plant your seed in the ground, water it and believe.” He credits the place he is in now with planting ideas and tending to them; as well as, he says, “I would not stop believing.” He encourages, “never despise small beginnings that would change the world”.
The 1998 musical “I Know I’ve Been Changed,” was a financial failure, but Perry didn’t give up. During a second attempt to stage his play, he applied more business-savvy marketing strategies. The play sold out and drew attention from investors. He persisted and over the next six years he rewrote the musical many times. He continued to write new stage productions that gained a devoted African-American following. His success came after he sold more than $100 million in tickets and according to Forbes Magazine “$30 million in videos of his shows and an estimated $20 million in merchandise.” He produced 300 live shows a year; of which, gained the attendance of nearly 35,000 people a week.
Perry’s first film, “Diary of a Mad Black Woman” received a $5.5 million budget and grossed earnings of $50.6 million domestically. He went on to become director, producer and co-producer of several other films that gained popularity and has grossed over $500 million worldwide. In 2010, Forbes Magazine named Perry the second highest earnings man in Hollywood.
Perry has won many awards for his work. Perry has produced more than 20 plays, movies and TV shows. He is an American Actor that has been seen in television shows and stage plays. He is a creative screenwriter and playwright; of which, has earned him credit for dozens of plays. He has created, directed and produced many successful feature films that have earned audiences attention. He began Tyler Perry Studios in 2006 which operates in Southwest Atlanta; he currently guides the work of other filmmakers. Tyler Perry has recently signed a multi-year deal with Winfrey Network (OWN) to create new scripted TV shows.
The most difficult thing is the decision to overcome obstacles, endure hardship and keep calm under the turmoil life brings. Perry’s story of courage to endure hardship, brought opportunities to purse endeavors he never thought was possible. We must learn to endure hardship with dignity and strength. When human life brings suffering and calamity; as it often will, enduring gives meaning to the word courage. Through the courage we find strength. Have Perseverance to endure hardship; for the storm will end and there will be rest.
Be strong and live Victoriously!
Notes & References:
2. http://www.oprah.com/oprahshow/Tyler-Perry-Talks-About-Being-Abused-Video2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyler_Perry